Book Review: The Silence
I’ve blogged before about the importance (and absence) of a true lessons learned processes in emergency management. The current system of debriefs and action plans is something. But it’s not everything that we need.
One of the most primitive ways that we share information, and pass on important lessons, is in the form of stories. Admittedly that’s far less measurable than some RAG-rated entries in a database. But potentially it’s powerful.
My latest project is to collate staff experiences of response to an incident, but through less traditional mediums, their own artistic interpretations of their memories and then to collate that into a zine. It’s a bit of an experiment to see if there are different ways to tell the story of a response, rather than limit that to the narrow confines of a debrief and it’s report.
With that in mind, I set out last weekend to go to London’s largest zine collection for a bit of inspiration.
Along the way I stopped in to a bookshop and one of the recommended reads was The Silence by Don DeLillo. A short novella rather than a mighty tome.
Superbowl Sunday, 2022. A couple wait in their Manhattan apartment for their final dinner guests to arrive. The game is about it start. The missing guests’ flight from Paris should have landed by now.
Suddenly, screens go blank. Phones are dead. Is this the end of civilization? All anybody can do is wait.
My interest was piqued.
However, I have some bad news. This was not an enjoyable read. Other than a few fleeting references to the situation (and it’s still unclear exactly what happened – cyber hacking? power loss? geomagnetic storm?) it wasn’t really about the incident. Worse, I’m not really clear what it was about. Or what message it was trying to convey.
Critics have lauded the book as ‘stylistic’. However, it feels like the author simply developed an algorithm to say the ‘right’ apocalyptic fiction words regardless of what order those words appear in, and at the expense of any kind of plot.
There is dialogue, but rarely are there conversations, just a series of loosely connected statements. I have never met anybody who speaks like this, and yet here are a collection of people who all do. I found it incredibly hard to read, so it was fortunate that it was short at just 144 pages.
I would not recommend this book. You can find a million better things to do.
The one positive; I learned a lesson to avoid this particular style of book, and I learned that lesson through the power of a story.